Sunday, June 15, 2008


I don't know if the self-made sub-genre of Mumblecore has a code of ethics or rulebook, but taking plots loosely, and having regard for cinematography like a 4-track rock band does sound, seem to be a couple of guiding principles. Oh... and of course, the "mumble".

Misleading in its title, the dialogue in these films is not incomprehensible, just incoherent. Crossword vocabulary shared between independently wealthy good looking white people whose greatest concerns are if anyone will show at their art opening and if they should or shouldn't sleep with the cute guy/gal who's got the cool sardonic wit. Because if they do, you know... like, I mean... it could, I mean... be really rad and stuff, but, what if... I mean, what if... like, what if... he's got, you know, maybe, you know,... a girlfriend or something?

This stuff is tedious when it's trying to probe the lives and psyches of Generation Whatever... , but when it's done as comedy, it can work. Andrew Bujalski is a talent worth watching (and following...), and in 2006, The Duplass Brothers made a charming relationship comedy called The Puffy Chair. With a plot as dense as that of a five minute short, the Duplass' laid back, hung loose, and let their light, funny actors improvise and play, carrying what would have otherwise been a shell of a film.

Then came Baghead. A rumored-to-be low budget horror film that generated curious buzz because of the WTF? reaction it received when fans heard that "the dudes who made The Puffy Chair are making a horror film!?!". Soon came word that Baghead was a horror-comedy, and when its Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice parodying poster was released, that appeared true.

Baghead starts-off well enough. Opening with a screening and Q&A for a film called We Are Naked, the inclusive and egotistical world of indie film gets skewered. It's a refreshing - and accurate - critique of a hipster class so vain that it would rarely think to do anything so self-exposing. Yet, from here, the film falls victim to what hampers the output of its peers. Instead of giving horror some fresh legs (in moments, Baghead seems to revitalize what was playful about 80's slasher flicks...) Baghead takes a slacker's approach to horror, mocking the genre instead of paying it homage.

Besides the veteran B-actress Elise Muller, the actors in Baghead perform like walk-ons from a seventy-two hour acting class. Especially Greta Gerwig, Mumblecore's pseudo-leading lady. She gives a faceless and feckless performance that makes one question whether the actress is only getting work via the casting futon. Hers is a performance that inspires disdain, because it reaffirms that the politics and back-scratching that indie stalwarts purport to rail against in Hollywood are just as alive and active in Indieland.

The Duplass Brothers mock that hypocrisy in Baghead's first 5 minutes, but by film's end, they revert back to it in an ending that leaves one bewildered. I would advise the brothers (and Andrew Bujalski) to get away from the Mumblecore stigma fast and furiously. Here's the thing. Scenes, movements, trends don't calculatedly identify themselves as such. If they do, they usually die. Remember Dogma 95?

1 comment:

debbie said...

Aaron was watching "Hannah Takes the Stairs" last night. It didn't look very good.

Scenes, movements, trends don't calculatedly identify themselves as such...well said.